XXX: Return of Xander Cage UHD Blu-ray Review

Name the Sequel XXXX

During a motorcycle chase partway through XXX: Return of Xander Cage, Chinese martial arts superstar Donnie Yen jumps a transforming motorcycle into the ocean. Giving chase, Vin Diesel’s motorcycle also transforms, allowing the duo to continue after one another in a surfing sequence. On motorcycles. In the ocean.

The scene asks for no odds that both combatants happen to have transforming vehicles or why Xander Cage wastes the awesome fisticuffs of Yen on a chase rather than brawling.

However, credit where it’s due: Yen’s superlative fists do come into play during a climactic fight. It’s sensational and – unlike most western action cinema – allows the choreography to live on screen. No crumpled editing, no heightened camera shaking. Xander Cage saves that for Vin Diesel.

Even on release in 2002, XXX felt late, as if bred on leftover feelings for late ‘90s extreme sports videos. Here, long enough that ‘90s nostalgia is a thing, Xander Cage does much the same. If studios dig into their vault and spit out a XXX sequel, it’s not long until a live action Rugrats update. Be prepared.

Although Xander Cage invokes the same tired character – wherein women fawn over Diesel and appear to melt when he walks in a room – it’s also a sequel willing to expand itself. Xander Cage’s worldwide trek brings in Chinese, British, Taiwanese, and Indian XXX members, an international rogues gallery infinitely more convincing than Suicide Squad. This in a movie where one of the heroes uses his DJ skills as a defensive skill.

There’s arrogance and smugness embedded into the film…

It’s all quite stupid. No one walks into Xander Cage expecting much else, although the end product feels irregularly full of itself. The studio, the writers, or maybe Diesel himself seem to believe Xander Cage can set off another Fast & Furious scenario. Bring Diesel back, drop references to the past films, and move forward. There’s arrogance and smugness embedded into the film, partly for the sake of the anti-establishment, anti-culture attitude, and also partly out of confidence. Everyone who meets him blurts out, “Xander Cage!” as if he’s a public superstar of a covert government program.

The minimal narrative, existing out of spite that audiences demand context for their motorcycle surf scenes, deals in illicit surveillance and spying. Relevant, at least. This feeds into a feud between XXX cliques, a fine idea, allowing action superstars to stare down one another. That works, leading toward a zero gravity shoot-out, preposterous if imaginative considering the freedom XXX allows. It’s not one for subtly, if the best thing to ever come from the XXX property.

Video (UHD)

The location work begs for UHD treatment. Glazed in heavy sunlight, the greenery of forests and awesome blues of the nearby water dazzle in their purity. HDR effects enhance the sunlight streaming in, adding incredible pop as needed. Even the introductory scene inside of a Chinese restaurant hits with stellar backlighting.

Same goes for shadows. Deep, rich black levels perform at top tier levels. This helps alleviate the sometimes gaudy orange color grading during night scenes. While much of Xander Cage skews warm, those few scenes pile on.

Mastered in 2K, the source resolution leaves little residue. Facial definition stands out, while the island and city locations grab whatever fidelity they can. Aside from stock footage (one establishing shot of Detroit is appalling), every shot relishes the chance to show off. Some of the more forested locales shows trees and leaves extending well into the background, all without a shred of flicker.

Video (Blu-ray)

Excellent fidelity carries the Blu-ray presentation. Despite some crushing shadows in the darkest scenes, close-ups still hold plenty of fine detail. Exteriors challenge the encode without any particular problems. Paramount does high-grade work here.

Bright, nicely saturated, and clean, the digital production translates to Blu-ray with minimal trouble. One scene of noise as Diesel first enters the carrier is minor at its worst. All of the digital clarity keeps Xander Cage’s imagery stable and free of problems.

Audio

Both discs come with a Dolby Atmos track, which when allowed is exhilarating work. The earliest action scenes suffer from the Underworld syndrome, e.g., a blaring soundtrack which suffocates most nuance.

Luckily, the soundtrack settles and the score sits nicely under the gunfire and other action. Waves crash down overhead as motorcycles pass underneath and gunfire ricochets inside an empty warehouse. Directionality isn’t just frequent; it’s constant. Xander Cage doesn’t stop moving, and a foot chase through heavy traffic pans between speakers effortlessly.

Do not fear a lack of LFE support either. From the mammoth soundtrack to satellites crashing or helicopters dropping in to a carrier jet losing altitude, it’s a monstrous mix in terms of boldness. Supremely powerful rumbling frequently comes into play, sometimes enough to overwhelm, but always heavy.

Note some dialog delivered by Diesel around 19-minutes sounds oddly garbled.

Extras

Not much to chew on in the bonus features. Third Times the Charm begins a slate of four featurettes, this one eight minutes, providing context for the sequel’s development. Rebels, Tyrants, and Ghosts looks into the international casting process, a lengthy bonus at 20-minutes. For on set and location footage, Opening Pandora’s Box spends 16-minutes looking. With stunts, there’s the 15-minute I Live for This Shit. Finally, a short gag reel isn’t worth watching given such limited context.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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